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Renard keeps magic touch in shootouts; more misery for Grant

February 9, 2015

BATA, Equatorial Guinea (AP) — For Herve Renard, history repeats itself.

At least when it comes to the French coach’s magic touch in penalty shootouts. And also when it comes to Avram Grant’s cursed luck with spot kicks.

Renard took Ivory Coast from a team that constantly disappointed at the African Cup of Nations to the title on Sunday, finally living up to its favorite tag to beat Ghana 9-8 on penalties.

“Never give up ... this is the most important thing,” said Renard, who knows about winning African titles in shootouts.

In a final full of parallels at Bata Stadium, Renard won his second African Cup via a penalty shootout, Ivory Coast won its second title by again beating Ghana on penalties, and former Chelsea coach Grant missed out on a major trophy again in a shootout.

Painfully for Grant, Ghana took a 2-0 lead in Sunday’s shootout and still couldn’t win, giving him another unwanted experience when it comes to the spot kicks.

In 2008, the Israeli was a penalty away from winning the Champions League in his first season with Chelsea, only for John Terry to slip and miss. Manchester United went on to win club football’s top prize.

A penalty curse?

“No, I don’t believe in these things,” Grant said. “To reach the final of the Champions League is a big achievement that many won’t achieve. I’m very proud of that.”

Having also come so close to the African Cup in his first assignment with Ghana, the reason for this loss was simpler for Grant, who said in the buildup to the African final that he had prepared his team on the training field for a possible penalty shootout at Bata Stadium.

“You know in front of the supporters, it is something else,” Grant said. “They scored one more than us. This is the difference.”

Renard’s shootout success having coached Zambia to victory over his current team on penalties in 2012 appeared over Sunday. Star striker Wilfried Bony and Tallo Gadji missed the first two penalties for Ivory Coast.

But veteran goalkeeper Boubacar Barry — called in to the team as an injury replacement — saved one penalty and Ghana missed the target with another to level things. The Ivorians then showed grit to stay alive, scoring with six straight penalties when missing meant defeat. Finally, Barry saved from opposite number Razak Braimah and scored himself, repeating Ivory Coast’s shootout victory over Ghana in the final 23 years ago.

“After 2-0, yes it’s very difficult,” Renard said. “But as I said, history repeats itself.”

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